Turchin was born in Obninsk, Russia, in 1957 and in 1963 moved to Moscow. In 1975 he entered the Faculty of Biology of the Moscow State University and studied there until 1977, when his father, the Soviet dissident Valentin Turchin, was exiled from the USSR. He got his B.A. in biology from the New York University (cum laude) in 1980 and Ph.D. in zoology in 1985 from Duke University.
Peter Turchin is a professor at the University of Connecticut in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology as well as in the Department of Mathematics and in the Department of Anthropology.